Malek Bennabi

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Malek Bennabi
مالك بن نبي
Malek Bennabi
A prominent Algerian thinker
Born January 1, 1905
Tébessa, Algeria
Died 31 October 1973(1973-10-31) (aged 67–68)
Nationality Algerian
Other names Seddik Bennabi
Occupation Writer, speaker,thinker, university lecturer,theologian,
Known for civilizational cycle, problem of culture (empricial and civilizational culture), historical movement, problem of ideas, conditions of a renaissance, globalization, economics...

Malek Bennabi (1905–1973) (Arabic: مالك بن نبي‎‎) was an Algerian writer and philosopher, who wrote about human society, particularly Muslim society with a focus on the reasons behind the fall of Muslim civilization. He is mostly known for the concept of coloniability which is the inner aptitude of some societies to be colonized (Black-African particularly). The fall of the Almohad dynasty that ruled North Africa and Muslim Spain marked a new devastating trend of undermining ideas. The lack of new ideas concurrently spurned the death of new civilizations. According to Malik Bennabi, with this, emerged what he coined civilizational bankruptcy.[1]


Bennabi was born in Tébessa. Educated in Paris and Algiers in engineering, he later based himself in Cairo, where he spent much of his time toiling through fields of history, philosophy and sociology. In 1963, after returning to Algeria, he witnessed modern science and technological civilizations fold before his very eyes. This has spurred him to reflect on the question of culture in the early nineteenth century. His approach was simple, not parroting what had been discovered before his time, but rather, searching for what constitutes the essence of culture and the birth of civilization.


From one of his works, Les Conditions de la Renaissance (1948), he defined culture as the mode of being and becoming of a people. This includes aesthetic, ethical, pragmatic, and technical values. When these contents have been clearly defined, only then could various formulations of ideas be born. The birth of new ideas equals to a dynamic society that leads to the movement of vibrancy of a new civilization. In another book, The Question of Culture (1954), he said, the organisation of society, its life and movement, indeed, its deterioration and stagnation, all have a functional relation with the system of ideas found in that society. If that system were to change in one way or another, all other social characteristics would follow suit and adapt in the same direction. Ideas, as a whole, form an important part of the means of development in a given society. The various stages of development in such a society are indeed different forms of its intellectual developments. If one of those stages corresponds to what is called “renaissance", it will mean that society at that stage is enjoying a wonderful system of ideas; a system that can provide a suitable solution to each of the vital problems in that particular society. He added that ideas influence the life of a given society in two different ways; either they are factors of growth of social life, or on the contrary, the role of factors of contagion, thus rendering social growth rather difficult or even impossible.


He said that in the nineteenth century, the relations among nations were based on power for the position of a nation was dependent on the number of its factories, cannons, fleets and gold reserves. However, the twentieth century introduced a new development in which ideas were held in high esteem as national and international values. This development has not been strongly felt in many underdeveloped countries, for their inferiority complex has created a warped infatuation with the criteria of power that is based on objects. Muslims living in an underdeveloped country will no doubt feel that they are inferior to people living in a developed country. They will gradually realise that what separates people is not geographical distance, but distance of another nature. As a result of this inferiority, Muslims ascribe this distance to the field of objects. They see their situation as an abomination caused by lack of weapons, aeroplanes and banks. Thus, their inferiority complex will lose its social efficacy, leading only to pessimism on the psychological level. On the social level, it will lead to what we have elsewhere called takdis (heaping-up). To turn this feeling into an effective driving-force, Muslims should ascribe their backwardness to the level of ideas, not to that of "objects", for the development of the new world depends increasingly on ideational and intellectual criteria. In underdeveloped countries, which are still within the sphere of influence of the superpowers, arms and oil revenues are no longer sufficient to support that influence. Ideas alone can do the job. The world has, therefore, entered a stage at which most of its problems can be solved only by certain systems of ideas. Therefore, the Arabs and other Muslim countries, especially those that do not possess a great deal of material power, should give more weight to the issue of ideas.[2]

He later criticised the Muslim society for frequently falling into an apologetic state, where its members keep on harping on the civilization that once was built by their forefathers. Muslims tend to circle around the archaic archaeological process, digging up past treasures instead of bridging progress with new ones. Muslims today are in a state of disarray. Muslim countries and societies are largely imperialized by the West. This is truly not a failure of Islam, but because Muslims and those in governance abandoned the true understanding of what Islamic values connote. In this, Bennabi again pointed out, after Egypt's humiliation in the Six-days war in June 1967, it is the ummah's (global Muslim community) understanding and worldview, its stock of ideas rather than of arms and ammunition's, that needs to be renewed. Obviously corrections need to be rectified. Although looking back to what had been achieved in the Golden Age of Islam is still relevant, what is more important is to be able to appreciate the political values and culture of models and systems implemented by past prophets, re-interpret and apply these to our contemporary society. Enriching the society is part of dynamism in Islam. Colonisation of minds has driven Muslims towards a state of moral and psychological decay. Again in his book, “Islam in History and Society" (1954), moral paralysis results in intellectual paralysis.

Bibliography (Partial list)[edit]

  • Les conditions de la renaissance (Conditions of a Renaissance)
  • Vocation de l'Islam (Vocation of Islam)
  • Le problème des idées dans le monde musulman (Problem of Ideas in Muslim World)
  • Le phénomène coranique (The Quranic Phenomenon)
  • Lebbeik (First and only novel that attracted interest of French filmmakers, due to the seductions and attractions he received, the writer decided no more to involve in novelry, but to engage himself for noble causes)
  • La lutte idéologique (The Ideological Struggle in Third World Countries)
  • L'Afro-asiatisme (Afro-asiatisme)
  • Islam et Démocratie (Islam and Democracy)
  • Dans le souffle de la bataille.( Within the breath of the battle)
  • S.O.S Algérie (Save Algeria)
  • Idée d'un commonwealth islamique (An Idea of Islamic Commonwealth)
  • Naissance d'une société (Birth of a Society)
  • Perspectives Algérienne (Algerian Prescriptives)
  • Mémoires d'un témoin du siècle, tome1 et tome2
  • Le rôle du musulman dans le dernier tiers du 20ème siècle
  • Le role du musulman dans le monde de l'economie (The Role of the Muslim in the world of economy)
  • Le livre et le milieu humain(inedit 2006)(Book and Human Milieu)
  • l'Oeuvre des orientalistes (The Result of Orientalists)
  • Contemplations (Reflections)
  • Le Musulman dans le Monde de l'Economie
  • Memoires d'un temoin du siecle, 2 first volumes (the Child, The Student
  • Memoires d'un temoin du siecle, 4 with two added unpublished volumes (The Writer and Notes)

Malek Bennabi wrote more than 25 books, all his works were written between 1946 (The Quranic Phenomenon) and 1973. Yet, due to Mr.X whom he calls the imperialist enemies, many of his works are ceased from being published, some were lost or censored.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "African History". Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Malek Bennabi's Book A Question of Ideas in the Muslim World". Retrieved 30 September 2012.